Nyasa means “to place.” This can refer to a physical placing of the hands in a specific way or a placing of attention to a specific area. Vi means “special.” So vinyasa means to place in a special way. Often yogis will practice placing mudras in specific places on the body to improve the effectiveness of the mudra.  In the context of moving energy in the body, we will look at vinyasa as the physical practice of moving the body in a special and specific way.
There are many yang ways to physically stimulate prana to flow through the nadis; sun salutations are very effective and there are many variations to choose from. Full sun salutations are energizing, warming, engaging and wonderful for the muscles. They are very essence of yang: bright, hot, and dynamic. Just before a yin practice, however, they may be too stimulating for the muscles.
Never is never correct and always is always wrong so there can be times when a vigorous round of sun salutations before a yin practice may be just what you need. An Alaskan morning in mid-December at 20 below may absolutely require it. But in general, the heating of the muscles that occurs in the sun salutation will increase the muscles’ ability to absorb all the tension arising from the yin postures. This prevents the stretch from sinking into the deeper connective tissues where we want the tension to reside.
So what do you do when you still want to wake up the body, especially the spine, before beginning your yin practice? There are many vinyasas that will give you the openness you are craving, get your mojo moving, and yet still keep the muscles relatively cool. The moon salutation is one way; the variation offered here will also wake up the hips. If the moon is still too bright for you, other choices could include a mini-sun salutation, the cloud salutation or the least active of all, the Pawanmuktasana series of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. We will view all of these in the next sections.